By Acarya Dasa
Our pāda-yātrā party reached Kalady (Kaladi) on June 5th. The town is located east of the Periyar river, in the Ernakulam district of Kerala and is not far from the ‘Cochin International Airport’. It is famous for being the birth place of Adi Shankaracharya, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
When the Supreme Personality of Godhead orders, Lord Shiva descends to this material world. The Padma Purana states that Lord Shiva appeared as a Brahmana in the age of Kali to introduce the Māyāvādī philosophy to eradicate the Buddhist philosophy being preached at the time. Lord Shiva in a conversation with Parvati Devi, foretold how he would spread this Māyāvādī philosophy in the guise of a sannyāsī. He later descended as Sripada Shankaracharya and preached the philosophy of monism. However, he did compose a number of beautiful verses known as ‘Bhaja Govindam’ wherein he writes “just worship Govinda”. There are many commentators who consider Shankaracharya to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva, the greatest devotee of the Lord, understanding that out of necessity of that time he could not directly advocate devotion to the personal form of the Lord as the highest goal of life. But, just before he departed from this world Sri Shankaracharya spoke these last words:
bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam
bhaja govindam mudhamate
samprapte sannihite kale
na hi na hi rakshati dukrinyakarane
‘Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh you fools, just worship Govinda. Your rules of grammar and word jugglery will not help you at the time of death.”
It was wonderful to visit his birth place and to recount how he was directed by the Lord to preach monism and how he followed the Lord’s order. We all took darsana of all the temples there before going to ‘Crocodile Ghat’ another place made famous by Shankaracharya.
‘Muthala Kadavu’ or ‘Crocodile Ghat’ is well-known for being the place where Shankaracharya decided that he would take sannyāsa (ascetic life). Shankara (as he was called at the time) had wanted to become a sannyāsī but his mother, Aryamba, did not agree with this desire. One day, Shankara was touched by a dog and, as per custom he had to take bath. Accompanied by his mother, Shankara went down to the river Poorna to bathe. While in the water, a crocodile caught hold of his leg. His mother was helpless because she could not rescue her son. Upon seeing the helplessness of his mother, Shankara told her that the crocodile would let him go if she allowed him to become a sannyāsī. Desperate, his mother agreed, and the crocodile freed Shankara. Shankaracharya began his life as an ascetic from then on and travelled further down south of India in search of a Guru.
We had planned to leave Kalady the next day, but somehow we were delayed in our departure and ended up staying another two days. Perhaps Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar, wanted to stay at Adi Shankaracharya’s birth place for a while longer. We all took this opportunity to do saṅkīrtana in the town and distribute books. Wherever we went we were welcomed by the residents. We arranged evening class after Gaura ararti which many people attended. The people in this area are very favorable. After our short stay we set off for our next destination.